AT a time when there are hundreds of Dungannon families desperate for a roof over their heads, latest figures have revealed there are 37 vacant social housing properties in the Dungannon District.
The number has been described as ‘alarming’ by a local councillor, given the fact that there are 1020 people registered as homeless in the district.
The housing waiting list has been rising sharply since the economic downturn began in 2007.
And with fewer homes being built, there is no end in sight for the households stuck on the Housing Executive waiting list.
Prospects for households on the local waiting list are bleaker than for people living in other parts of Northern Ireland.
The proportion of homeless people to the current number of Housing Executive properties in the district stands at 57 percent, the third highest in the North, after Newry and Bangor.
Sinn Féin MLA Bronwyn McGahan has said that Department of Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland needs to do more to ensure that empty houses are brought back into the market for allocation in the Dungannon area.
Ms McGahan said: “There is a glut of housing lying empty across the district that need to be utilised and used for social housing to alleviate the growing waiting list.
“I have asked the Minister in a written question in the Assembly what plans he has to bring these homes back into use.
“More and more people are suffering from housing stress yet we see a growing number of empty homes lying unused at the same time.
“While the Minister has given a positive reply I am concerned on the time lapse it takes to bring a house back onto the market for allocation.
“It is important that all social housing lying empty are also brought back into use and a programme of maintenance must be launched to bring these home back to the proper condition for letting in a very quick timespan.
“If the Minister has the political will the housing crisis in the Dungannon could be resolved in a very short time by embarking on a policy of new build and refurbishing existing empty homes.”